Be An Out-of-Place Christian

Somewhere between Spring Street and HIll in the middle of L.A,'s "Chinatown", there used to be a bookstore that was completely funded and inventoried by the Beijing Press, Communist China's official government publishing agency. It was also, quite frankly, one of the propaganda arms of the Communist regime. Back in the late 1970's I was shocked to discover it of course. I don't know if the store is still there now, but what's shocking these days, anyway?—with Americans electing outright socialists and communists into Congress.  

Prior to our mission work in Taiwan, Sharilyn and I had started a little ministry up in Chinatown where we would visit the little Chinese bookstores and offer them Christian literature, to sell along with the rest of their inventory. The books were all in Chinese, very attractively published by the Chinese Christian Press, and they were free. We would buy them at bulk rate and just give them to the proprietors; we even included a nice rotating wire rack that many of the store owners couldn't resist. 

But then, one day, we came upon this bookstore, and that was a different matter. 

I'd been inside this store before: on the street level, everything looked pretty normal: beautifully bound and printed editions of contemporary Chinese fiction and non-fiction; all being offered at incredibly low prices. 

But things were quite different down in the basement of the store. There on the wall, at the bottom of the steps was an enormous photo of Chairman Mao. Off to the right, on another wall, Joseph Stalin was benevolently staring down at us. It was here at the basement level that the real purpose for the bookstore became apparent: Communist propaganda. The books were sold at incredibly cheap prices; it was obvious that making a profit was not even part of the equation. 

Sharilyn and I weren't sure if we should try promoting our Christian literature in such a place, but we went in anyway with our little sample of books. The girl behind the counter told us that the "lau-ban-nyang (proprietress) was downstairs—wouldn't you know?—I was hoping we wouldn't need to go down there!  

We made our way down a narrow flight of stairs, and we didn't even get to the bottom before the proprietress saw us coming and called out suspiciously: "What do you want?" 

We stopped, right there about halfway down and I began telling her why we had come: we were Christians, we had come to give her some Christian books at no cost to add to her inventory. 

But before I could explain, a customer stepped out from behind one of the bookshelves and just began ripping into us! She was a young girl; American, maybe in her twenties; an American; a college student perhaps; but was she ever angry! 'You stinking Christians! Why don't you go ram your religion down somebody else's throats! Nobody wants you comin' around here..." On and on she went!  Goodness! You'd think she'd uncovered two serial killers! 

It was so disturbing! Sharilyn and I both just stood there on the stairs, as she climbed up past us, snarling and snapping at us all the way up. And there was good ol' Chairman Mao and wonderful genial Joe Stalin sneering at us from the walls as if to say: "What did you expect?"  

As the young woman reached the top of the steps I finally managed to squeek out a "God bless you."  

The proprietress was standing down below, at the cash register. She had overheard every word! Embarrassed, I gave her a smile and then said: "Well, thanks anyway. We just thought we'd ask." 

Sharilyn and I started back up the steps, both of us wondering why we had come. And we were almost at the top of the stairs when this winsome voice came trailing up after us:

"My mom believed all that." 

It stopped us in our tracks! We turned and came back down a few steps: "What did you say?" I asked. 

"My mom! In Beijing. She believed, like you. The Jesus! I remember. She believed it all her life." 

Sharilyn and I just stood there, stunned. We couldn't believe our ears. We went back down and sat next to the cash register, and there, under the angry glare of Chairman Mao, we got to share with this woman our faith in Jesus Christ. She couldn't accept our Christian books, but she listened politely and intently. And—oh!—what a contrast she had just seen that day, between the angry rage of this sad fallen world and two very out-of-place followers of Christ! 

Listen, dear faithful soldiers of the Cross: you be an "out-of-place" follower too! You really don't know where the next receptive heart will be! And sometimes you'll find them in the most unlikely places! Do not cross anyone off your list! Don't even rule out the "impossible" places! Because this world is needy and so desperately lost! And the Lord God Himself is still reaping His harvest! Be ready dear Chrsitian, and be bold when you speak; because you certainly have every reason to be!

"Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech." 2 Cor 3:12

See you Sunday!                               RAS

Missions Christmas List
Your Lofty 'Career'